Civility, an Ideal for Barbarians


What does it mean to be civil? The word conjures up an image of a fair good person, part of a civilized culture, with fair laws and standards. To civilize a person then, would be a good thing, because it would lift them out of barbarianism into a more peaceful way of life with others, creating a more comfortable environment for all.

Based on what civil and civilized mean then, it is easy to deduce that to present day, there seems to be no evidence of a civilized society. Civility is more of an ideal for barbarians. Bear with me, I’ll explain.

Empires that once considered themselves to be at the peak of modern civilization, are perceived by modern day observers to have had some quite barbaric customs. At the peak of their glory societies like those of Egypt, Greece, Rome, and China, were making amazing discoveries in the sciences and thought. They all considered themselves highly civil, yet they had slaves and engaged in ravenous conquest and bloody wars.

In more modern civilized times, fierce barbarianism persists despite our most impressive achievements. Perhaps the current forms of barbarianism seem more out of place than ever because we are evolving closer to the civil ideal, making barbarianism intolerable at a collective level in a way that has never been experienced before.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but consider some of these questions.

Is it civilized to cut down a tree to make paper or boxes that will become waste, when there are better alternatives like hemp or to use lumber for building when there are countless natural and sustainable ways to build?

Is it civil that our indigenous people live in reservations, many in poverty, or that the government has broken treaty upon treaty, or that their lands continue to be taken or contaminated?

Is it civil to use oil that happens to spill and destroy life on Earth every few years, or use nuclear power that is harmful to the health of many generations when there are clean energies like geothermal, wind, solar, and hydropower?

Is it civil to keep animals in miserable conditions and alter their genes making their immune systems weak, just to get their meat to be the right kind of pink, or to make their chest meat huge without considering the animal might fracture a leg under it’s own weight?

Is it civil to alter the genes of anything, or to use poisonous chemicals?

Is it civil to kill a human being for any other reason than self-defense, whether it is for an execution via lethal injection, or in a war, or trying to apprehend a criminal or for any other reason?

Well, you see where I am going with this; the list could be almost endless.

The positive side to seeing how very uncivilized we still are here on Earth, is that by understanding how far we still have to go, we can move more consciously towards the civil ideal of a fair world for all life.

Please feel free to comment with any more examples of anything that does not seem civilized so we can all gain from that awareness. 


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